The lawsuit targets 13 coal businesses owned or operated by the Justice family, as well as the governor’s adult son. The Republican governor is the leading candidate to take on Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in 2024.
“[T]he total amount of the penalties and [Abandoned Mine Land] fees, plus interest, penalties and administrative expenses, owed by the defendants is approximately $7.6 million,” the DOJ said in a statement.
“Over a five-year period, defendants engaged in over 130 violations of federal law, thereby posing health and safety risks to the public and the environment,” U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh for the Western District of Virginia said. “After given notice, they then failed to remedy those violations and were ordered over 50 times to cease mining activities until their violations were abated. Today, the filing of this complaint continues the process of holding defendants accountable for jeopardizing the health and safety of the public and our environment.”
Justice’s office did not immediately respond to The Daily Wire’s request for comment.
Justice announced in April that he intends to run for U.S. Senate in 2024. The governor was reportedly a favorite recruit of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to challenge Manchin, a moderate Democrat.
Justice is leading Manchin in the hypothetical matchup, according to an East Carolina University Center for Survey Research poll. The poll, released Tuesday, showed the governor leading the senator by 22 points, with 54% in favor of Justice, 32% supporting Manchin, and 13% of voters undecided.
Justice came into the governor’s office in 2016 as a Democrat but flipped to the GOP in 2017. He ran for reelection in 2020 as a Republican, beating his Democratic challenger by more than 30 points. Justice is the first Republican elected as West Virginia’s governor since 1996.